State lawmakers drive gas guzzlers |

State lawmakers drive gas guzzlers

State lawmakers in Sacramento may have just passed a bill designed to reduce greenhouse gases, but they’re not the best role models in the campaign to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

Nearly half of the lawmakers who have state-purchased vehicles drive low gas mileage sport utility vehicles or pickup trucks, and most of the sedans driven by legislators have less than-average fuel efficiency.

That includes Nevada County’s two state lawmakers: Assemblyman Sam Aanestad (R – Grass Valley), who drives a full-size Ford Expedition sport utility vehicle; and Sen. Rico Oller (R – San Andreas), who drives a Lincoln LS sedan.

But at least they’re not hypocrites. Aanestad and Oller voted against the bill to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and both are skeptical of global warming.

“The concept of global warming is yet to be proved. There’s conflicting science,” said Aanestad’s spokesman Brett Michelin. “The fact of the matter is (Aanestad’s) district has a lot of snowbound areas that require 4-wheel drive in the winter.”

Oller has penned opinion pieces denouncing the carbon dioxide reductions, which won’t take effect until 2009, as “disastrous” and “ludicrous.”

“We exhale carbon dioxide emissions with every breath and there is simply no proof that this inert gas has detrimentally impacted our environment,” Oller wrote in condemning Gov. Gray Davis for signing the bill.

The Lincoln that Oller drives gets between 17 and 18 miles per gallon in city driving, 23 and 25 miles per gallon on the highway, and produces an estimated nine tons of greenhouse gases annually.

The Expedition that Aanestad drives is the most popular choice for legislators. It gets as little as 12 miles per gallon in the city and 16 miles per gallon on the highway, and produces 11 to 14 tons of greenhouse gases annually, depending on the year and style of the vehicle.

Sandra Spelliscy, general counsel for the Planning and Conservation League, an environmental group, said, ”Elected officials should be setting good examples for the public. There are plenty of good cars out there for people to choose from.”

The state Legislature buys cars for its members to use on state business, and lawmakers who participate in the program pay a share of the cost.

Typically, a senator’s share comes to about $96 a month, said Greg Schmidt of the state Senate staff. The Assembly has somewhat different three- and four-year plans. Lawmakers can pick any American-made vehicle they want.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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